Cozy Up to Culture | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon

Cozy Up to Culture

Swinging With the Stars

Swinging with the Stars enters its fifth annual production in Central Oregon and everyone involved should have a huge smile on their face. The event has raised over $264,000 for the Central Oregon Sparrow Clubs to date with no sign of slowing down and puts on a performance that audiences and performers alike seem to revel in completely.

Sparrow Clubs have a very simple mission: Setting the stage for children to learn how to help other children. A Sparrow child is someone from 0-17 who is in medical need or crisis. A local school then "adopts" this child as their Sparrow and a local business sponsors them. Students at the adopting school then meet their Sparrow though a school assembly where they learn the child's story. The schools are then challenged to do a minimum of 256 hours of community service on behalf of their Sparrow. For every hour completed, kids earn $10 for their Sparrow, paid by the sponsor. Last year in Central Oregon alone, more than 13,000 hours of community service were performed by students involved in Sparrow Clubs.

Swinging with the Stars is another huge aspect of the program.

"Our Sparrow Clubs Southern Oregon region first came up with the idea and after two years of success, we decided to hold a dancing event here," explains Michael Leeland, regional director of Sparrow Clubs. "Prominent community members are paired with local dance professionals about three months prior to the show. Each couple decides on a dance style and the music for their performance. The couples then have three months to perfect their dance."

If it sounds suspiciously like the ABC hit show "Dancing with the Stars," it should. Most of the local "celebrities" don't have dance experience, but they are evaluated by a panel of judges on what they've learned in 90 days as they perform their dance routine in front of a live audience. The annual fundraiser is modeled after the popular series and even has the blessing of the network.

"The ABC affiliate in both areas has supported us and Corporate ABC gave us permission to model the show after their television show Dancing With The Stars,"" Leeland says, "although ABC preferred we use the word 'swinging' rather than 'dancing.'" This year, eight couples will perform a variety of dance styles ranging from Latin to contemporary as they compete for two awards—the Judges' Award and the Mirrorball People's Choice Award.

"This award is based on votes from the audience," Leeland explains. "Since this is a fundraiser, every dollar donated to Sparrow Clubs becomes a vote for the donors' favorite dancing couple. Each dollar equals one vote."

Gwendolyn Mae, founder of Black Cat Ballroom and instructor of foxtrot, waltz, tango, Viennese waltz, cha cha, rumba, and just about every other dance you can think of, has been one of the pros since the beginning.

"Last year, my partner David Blair and I won the Mirror Ball People's Choice award with our Lindy Hop," Mae recalls.

This time around, pregnant with twins, Mae is relinquishing her spot on the stage and helping out in other ways. She has opened up her studio for rehearsals and event-related filming. Mae has also choreographed and helped one of the couples with their routine.

"I love being able to be a part of such an amazing event and support such a wonderful nonprofit group, The Sparrow Clubs," Mae says. "What they do to help families and children in need is beyond touching. All that are involved have the biggest hearts and give so much of their time and energy to help others in need. It is a really beautiful thing."

The stars this year include Marianne Cox (who, with her husband Chris, started JC's Bar and Grill), Michelle Mitchell (founder of HUMM Kombucha), Doug Knight (developer of St. Clair Place and the Deschutes expansion), Molly Troupe (youngest female distiller in the country), Keith Witcosky (City Manager of Redmond), Gary O'Connell (Market President of Summit Bank), Jamie Danek (HUMM), and Josh Cordell (five-time State Champion tennis coach at Summit).

6 pm, Saturday, Oct. 17

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St.


Big Brothers Big Sisters Comedy Benefit

The 18th annual event will also include a chance to win Beer for a Year, and a live and silent auction for thousands of dollars in prizes. The show will support mentoring services in Central Oregon and give youngsters chances to connect to the world they might not have had otherwise.

8 pm, Friday, Oct. 23

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St.


Sage Grouse: Icon of the Sagebrush Sea Exhibit

The Source has been writing about the sage grouse's plight a ton this year and now there are some visual and historical examples to go with all that environmental reporting. The High Desert Museum launches this exhibit on the heels of dogged attempts to prevent listing the bird under the Endangered Species Act.

Opens 9 am, Saturday, Oct. 17

High Desert Museum

59800 S. Hwy 97


The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The Doctor is in! This show is a revival of Lurking Squirrel's incredibly popular run from 2004 featuring most of the original cast including Michelle Mejaski (Gotta Dance Studio & Company), Richard Steffensen (Strictly Organic), and Chef Thor Erickson (COCC). This revival is sure to please diehards and virgins alike!

8 pm, Friday, Oct. 30 & midnight Saturday, Oct. 31

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St.


Portland Cello Project

With a repertoire that includes more than 1,000 pieces, you never know what you're going to get at a PCP show and that is part of the fun. They tend to blur musical lines wherever they go, creating a truly singular evening of music every single time.

7:30 pm, Sunday, Nov. 29

Tower Theatre

835 NW Wall St.


Poison Waters and Friends Drag Show

VIP seating is a must with the runway going right through the middle! This combined with a no-host bar, dinner, and some of the finest drag queens on the planet make this the most fun you will probably have all year. An evening not-to-be missed!

7 pm, Saturday, Oct. 17

Bend Community Center

1036 NE 5th St.


About The Author

Jared Rasic

Film critic and author of food, arts and culture stories for the Source Weekly since 2010.
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